Have you ever watched a movie and wondered how much of it was based on real life? For some films like biopics or "based-on-real-events" movies this is an obvious question to ask. Other times an actor fills a role so perfectly it is difficult not to wonder whether the role was written with the actor in mind.
Take for instance our upcoming film "Recalculating". It tells the story of a man named Tom trying to reconnect with his daughter, Sarah, who was a champion runner before losing her legs as the result of a car accident. Much of the story is told through a series of flashbacks and as an audience we are left wondering whether this accident has ended Sarah's running career for good.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are the director: you will be telling the story of a character who will be appearing on screen both as a runner and as an amputee. You are facing a casting dilemma: do you cast an actress who is a runner? Do you cast an actress who is an amputee? Will you be able to even find someone who can fill the role? Do you just decide to use movie magic to hide an actress' legs?
For us this question was answered when we met Katy Sullivan, an extraordinary actress, a champion runner, and a double amputee. At the time that we met she was appearing in a show at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago called "The Long Red Road". The rest, as they say, is history.
Sound too good to be true? Well, in a way it was: in the original script for "Recalculating" Sarah was Tom's wife. She still lost her legs as the result of the car accident, but she was never a runner. After meeting Katy and inviting her to join the project we re-wrote the script to make Sarah into Tom's daughter and, upon discovering that Katy was a runner, decided to make Sarah a runner as well. A little bit of creative flexibility, as it turns out, can go a long way.
When life imitates art and art imitates life it is edifying to see the kind of struggle and determination that you come to admire in the characters on screen carry over to real life. Within the next few weeks, Katy Sullivan will be competing in the 2012 London Paralympics as a sprinter. There is a little part of us that can't help but see this as an epilogue to the story of Sarah in "Recalculating".
To learn more about Katy Sullivan as a runner, here is a great article that can fill in many of the details: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20120729/news/120729784?p=1&tc=pg&tc=ar